Residents of Slavic Origin Lose Rights in Iceland Skip to content

Residents of Slavic Origin Lose Rights in Iceland

By Iceland Review

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A group of people from Latvia and Estonia of Slavic origin, who come from former Soviet Union member states, suddenly lost their rights as Icelandic residents after it was revealed that they had never been granted citizenship in their home countries and were consequently deported from Iceland.

The individuals were not granted citizenship in Latvia and Estonia because of their Slavic origin even though they’ve lived there for decades and are therefore not eligible to rights that EEA citizens have, Fréttabladid reports.

Ahús, the Intercultural Center in Reykjavík, in its old location on Hverfisgata. The center has since moved to Laugavegur. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

They are instead provided with so-called foreigners’ passports, which look very similar to the actual Latvian and Estonian passports, and in some cases Icelandic authorities and local employers didn’t realize the difference between these types of passports.

Ingibjörg Hafstad, who speaks Russian and works at Ahús, the Intercultural Center in Reykjavík, said a number of Latvians and Estonians of Slavic origin have sought assistance after having lost their jobs and residence permits after it was discovered that they carried foreigners’ passports.

“Some of them had children in schools, were employed and had settled in Iceland but then all of a sudden they have been to made leave the country,” Hafstad said. Around 40 Latvians and Estonians of Slavic origin reside in Iceland.

“I would say there were between five and ten such cases that we have handled in the past months,” said Haukur Gudmundsson, head of the Directorate of Immigration.

“But we haven’t punished employers for having hired people, although in the strictest sense of the word they were breaking laws. We find it more reasonable to consider that they made an excusable mistake rather than they had criminal intent,” Gudmundsson added.

Mördur Árnason, a deputy MP for the Social Democrats, has submitted an enquiry to the Minister of Justice Ragna Árnadóttir at the Althingi parliament regarding the legal status of this group of people in Iceland and in the European Union member states.

“I know that the cases of these people are treated less severely in the European Union member states and therefore it would be important to have a more detailed report on that matter to see whether we can handle it the same way,” Árnason said.

A great number of people of Slavic origin live in the Baltic countries. Lithuania has granted citizenship to all of its residents of Slavic origin, while they remain non-citizens in Latvia and Estonia.

According to Gudmundsson, matters are progressing the same way in Latvia but not in Estonia.

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